Marks and Spencer has announced that it may have to close some of its stores as the coronavirus outbreak continues to take its toll.
The news comes as all of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains have begun putting measures in place to adapt to the new circumstances - from limits on certain products to reducing trading hours and cutting product lines.
Why is M&S struggling?
Many supermarkets in the UK have seen a surge in business as people stockpile supplies in anticipation of shortages or periods of self-isolation, with most major chains now imposing restrictions on how much each customer can buy to prevent hoarding.
However, Marks and Spencer has largely failed to benefit from this trend, according to the company.
“We have benefited on a small scale as customers stock up but our heavy bias to chilled and fresh means we are not seeing the forward-buying uplift experienced by the major grocers," the retailer said.
The company’s household and clothing departments have reportedly seen “substantial declines”, leading to many staff being redeployed from there to the supermarket side of the business.
As of the morning of Friday 20 March, shares in Marks and Spencer were down 5.3 per cent. This brings its losses for 2020 to 49 per cent so far.
What steps will they take next?
Marks and Spencer has warned that, should this continue, it may have to close some of their stores on a temporary basis.
“It is too early to make any reasonable forecast for revenues in the next financial year but we are planning on the basis of a prolonged downturn in demand for clothing and home,” the company said.
“We are preparing for the contingency that some stores may have to close temporarily.”
However, the company remains confident that it will ultimately be able to endure the coronavirus outbreak successfully.
"M&S has served customers without cease through two world wars, terrorist bombings and numerous local disasters and we are determined to support our customers now as we always do," a statement from the company said.
"While there are many uncertainties, we expect to come through this period in a strengthened competitive position," it added.